Jonas Valanciunas looked to bounce back against Tony Parker and the French.

PRE GAME

Lithuania managed to sneak into the second round of Eurobasket 2013 as the third seed in Pool B. They will play three games against the winners of Pool A (France, Belgium, Ukraine) for a shot at moving to the semi-finals.

Their opponent today was the mighty French National Team and their solid crop of current and former NBA players. In addition to Tony Parker and Nic Batum, France boasted the likes of Nando de Colo (Spurs), Boris Diaw (Spurs), Johan Petro (formerly of the Supersonics, Nets) and Toronto Raptors’ zero-time fan-favorite, Alexis Ajinca.

GAME RECAP

I’ve decided to shorten the game recaps. I’m sure most people are only interested in how Jonas Valanciunas fared, and care not for the fortunes of the Lithuanian Men’s National Team. If you prefer a lengthy breakdown of each game (similar to previous instalments of Jonasbasket), leave me a comment in the section.

The French roster was more talented (Parker, Diaw, Batum), but their play was very disjointed. Oftentimes they would execute fantastic ball-movement and generate an open three-pointer (having Parker at the point will do that), but then they would miss and give up a basket in transition. There was a clear dichotomy in the offense; either Batum was going to attack one-on-one, or Tony Parker would facilitate. Also, France missed a bunch of wide open shots.

Lithuania made a concerted effort to attack the French front-line, opting to shoot the vast majority of their shots in the paint (they were also ice-cold from deep), while the French threw up jumper after jumper (see the first-half shot-chart below; Lithunia/Left, France/Right). Both teams struggled to convert despite running some pretty creative sets. The half ended 32-27in favor of the Lithuanians, who led mostly on the basis of their advantage in the paint (24-16 points in the paint for Lithuania).

1st half

The Lithuanians pulled away in the second half. They executed an endless number of pick-and-rolls (involving JV) which resulted in a number of three-pointers and points in the paint. France struggled generate offense as Parker and Batum failed to work in tandem with one another. Nando de Colo gave France a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter when he sunk a pair of three-pointers, but Lithuania pulled away down the stretch and won by a score of 76-62.

JONAS VALANCIUNAS – Game Recap

Jonas came off the bench following his benching in Lithuania’s last game against Bosnia and Herzegovina. He entered the game at the 2 minute mark and set a nice screen to free up a shooter for a jumper. He outworked two defenders and scored on a tip-in and scored an easy layup after receiving an excellent pass from Linas Kleiza (more on this later). His efforts caught the attention of Zach Harper of CBSsports:

Jonas stayed in the game for the start of the second. He was matched up against Johan Petro who seemed very content on taking (and missing) mid-range jumpshots (JV wisely let him do so). He was subbed out for Motiejunas at the 7 minute mark and returned at the 3 minute mark (after Motiejunas stunk up the court). Valanciunas caught a pass in the lane and was immediately wrapped up, but he managed to muscle in the basket anyway (and sunk the free-throw for the and-1). He ended the half with 7 points on 3/3 shooting, 1/1 on free throws and 3 rebounds. He was +8.

He was left on the bench to start the third, and I (Jason) kid you not, Alexis Ajinca wrecked havoc in the paint.

Let me repeat that; Alexis Ajinca wrecked wreaked havoc in the paint.

Ajinca dunked a number of times off post-ups and stuffed a Lithuanian big-man at the rim. Valanciunas was brought in at the 7 minute mark and was tasked with stopping Ajinca. He stripped Ajinca on one occasion, but Ajinca managed to score twice in the post against Jonas (which gave me a sick sinking feeling). Jonas was subbed out at the 3 minute mark as Lithuania opted to go with their defensive specialist to contain Ajinca. This game might have been played in an alternate universe.

The switch to the defensive big was working so well that Jonas didn’t return to the game until the 4 minute mark. He scored on a dunk off a nice pass and managed to snare an offensive rebound over two French bigs and scored on the put-back after being fouled (he missed the free throw). Finally, Jonas picked up a nice block down the stretch and helped Lithuania to a 76-62. He finished with 13 points on 6/6 shooting, 1/2 from the line, 6 rebounds (3/3), a block and a steal in ~16 minutes. He drew two fouls and was +12.

OFFENSE

Lithuania centred their offense around Jonas. Almost every one of their halfcourt sets involved a high screen-and-roll with JV. Unfortunately, nobody seemed particularly interested in getting Jonas the ball except when he was wide-open under the basket (especially Kleiza who almost always looks off Jonas; cue the outrage). He set a number of excellent screens which allowed the Lithuanian wings to get open for shots, including a very nice down-screen in the third that led to a wide-open three pointer.

Jonas was still rolling too quickly which left him out of position for passes. This is a continuing trend that has apparently persisted. He managed to secure decent post-position on a number of occasions but his teammates refused to give him the ball. He did not even attempt one post-up all game long.

DEFENSE

He gets an F- for letting Alexis Ajinca score twice in the post. I mean, come on!

Otherwise he was fine. He worked really hard on defense and hedged very well in the pick-and-roll. Aside from his misadventures with defending Ajinca, Jonas was decent in the post. He limited Petro to shooting jumpers and blocked a shot. He wasn’t challenged very often because France shot a large number of jumpers.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

  • Jonas worked his ass off in this game. He really wanted to win back his playing time after being benched. Hopefully it works. He played very well.
  • When I saw that Ajinca, Kleiza and some dude named Pietrus was playing in today’s game, I questioned why I was a Raptors fan. Turns out it was a different Pietrus, but it opened some painful wounds for me.
  • Alexis Ajinca looked…decent? It’s was an oddly horrifying thought. It was like running into an ex-girlfriend who lost 200 pounds and is now hotter than your current girlfriend. Guys, he scored twice on JV in the post! Ahh!
  • Jonas was doing the Kevin Garnett thing where he blocks shots at the whistle. That’s kinda cool.
  • Linas Kleiza had his best game of the tournament thus far as he finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds (albeit on 2-9 shooting). That’s right, 2-9 is his best game (there’s been 6 so far). He’s the ex-girlfriend who you run into and it turns out that he is still an awful basketball player.
  • Tony Parker can do anything. The man is really good at basketball. Moving on.
  • Nic Batum was a menace on the defensive end. He’s really long and can hold his own in the post. Portland is now paying him with the money they would have given Turkoglu. The world is funny.
  • Houston’s Motiejunas is really in the doghouse. He hasn’t cracked 10+ minutes in the past three games.
  • Line of the night:

“He’s open like church on Sunday!” [play-by-play man on a three pointer by de Colo]

Lithuania’s next game on Friday at 8:30 AM (EST). They will play the Belgians. Catch the game on ESPN3.

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